226 B. POLEVOI
springy step with which he walked. He was too ordinary,
in fact. Everybody soon got used to him and ceased to
pay any particular attention.
Late in the afternoon of the day after his arrival, Ale-
xei went to the reception-room to see Zinochka. He had
saved a pastry from his dinner and now held it wrapped
in a burdock leaf. He gallantly presented the pastry to
Zinochka, unceremoniously sat down at the desk and
asked the girl when she intended to keep her promise.
"What promise?" asked Zinochka, raising her arched,
"You promised to teach me to dance, Zinochka."
"But..." the girl tried to protest.
"I am told that you are such a good teacher that crip-
ples learn to dance, while normal men lose not only their
feet but also their heads, as was the case with Fedya.
When shall we start? Don't let us lose precious time."
Yes, she positively liked this newcomer. He had no
feet, yet he wanted her to teach him to dance! And why
not? He was a nice man, dark, with an even flush showing
through the dark skin of his cheeks, and soft, wavy hair.
He walked like ordinary people and he had lively eyes,
bantering and yet a little sad. Dancing occupied no small
place in Zinochka's life. She loved to dance, and was,
indeed, a good dancer.... And Meresyev, well, he really
To cut a long story short, she consented. She told
Alexei that she had been taught to dance by Bob Go-
rokhov, who was famous throughout Sokolniki, and that
he, in turn, was the best pupil and follower of Paul Su-
dakovsky, who was famous throughout Moscow and
taught dancing at military academies and at the club of
the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs; that she had taken
over from these celebrities the best traditions of ball-
room dancing and would undertake to teach even him
to dance, although, of course, she was not quite sure
that it was possible to dance without real feet. The terms
on which she consented to teach him were severe: he
must be obedient and diligent, try not to fall in love
with her, since that interferes with the lessons, and
chiefly—he must not be jealous when other partners in-
vite her to dance, because if she were to dance only with